Women vying for seats in Parliament in the upcoming General Elections received some timely encouragement on Monday.
The encouragement came from a high-level delegation from the United States of America during a meeting in Apia.
The delegation consisted of U.S Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Russel and the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift.
Samoa was the first stop of a trip that will see Mr. Russel travel to Tonga and Palau, highlighting the U.S enduring commitment to the Pacific Islands region with a focus to enhance bilateral political, economic, and security relations.
Samoa Ala Mai is a recent recipient of a U.S. Embassy Grant for a “Women’s Political Empowerment Programme”.
Speaking to the candidates, Mr. Russel congratulated them for the courage to step up.
“I remember one of my friends who worked in a desk that had a sign that said ‘for a woman to succeed in a man’s world means that she has to be twice as good as a man,’ but at the back of the sign it says ‘unfortunately that’s not difficult’,” Mr. Russel said.
“[But] I know it is difficult often to be given equal opportunities, to be given a chance to overcome structural governmental or societal barriers.”
For the United States of America, empowering women is a key priority. This is driven from the very top by President Barack Obama and the First Lady, Michelle Obama.
“The ability to see an issue from a different perspective, to recognize something that is wrong with this particular picture, are the ability to intervene when decisions are being made behind closed doors and say, “You know what, there is another side to this story, there are other considerations, that demands that we have diversity in our governments.
“I am aware of the impending elections and I know that now 10 percent of the seats have been set aside and it’s a floor not a ceiling, and depending on how the campaign goes, potentially the number of representatives can be much higher than that.
“It’s also not the last election some of us will have and I hope that the tradition of empowering women candidates and making very clear that women and girls matter will become more and more an element of your political society and your broader culture.”
Admiral Swift said that sometimes people speak about diversity in the wrong context.
“It’s either we talk about diversity from a gender perspective or from a cultural perspective or from a religious perspective,” he said.